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Reviews Written by
Gerald T. Walford "Literal wayfarer" (Bristol, UK)
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Pewter Kilt Set - Buckle, Pin, Cufflinks, - Celtic Interlace
Pewter Kilt Set - Buckle, Pin, Cufflinks, - Celtic Interlace

5.0 out of 5 stars Highland Fling!, 25 Oct. 2010
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I bought this item to wear for my wedding next year. I was a little worried as there's always an element of faith involved in buying such items on-line until you can see the real thing. These are great: bright, elegant and unique, they come in a nice sturdy case. A potential heirloom in the making!


Tuscany Everyman Guide (Everyman Guides)
Tuscany Everyman Guide (Everyman Guides)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Toscano!, 25 Oct. 2010
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Its such a shame that Everyman seem to be fading out these travel guides. They are fantastic. I don't wish to detract from the DK ones as they are super efficient and accessible, but these Everyman guides (this is my third) are more leisurely and scholarly in approach. Reading them I imagine being back in the fifties or sixties in the glamorous age of air travel tinged with an earnestness towards Italian culture. Perhaps slightly old fashioned and I would go online if I needed up to the minute facts, but to understand your destination in a slower, profounder way, kick back, pour some wine, and read!


No Title Available

5.0 out of 5 stars Does what it says......., 25 Oct. 2010
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Have bought a few of these over the last few months- this one so far seems to be the most robust as opposed to slightly cheaper models which haven't gone the distance. Perfect.


From Democrats to Kings: The Brutal Dawn of a New World from the Downfall of Athens to the Rise of Alexander the Great
From Democrats to Kings: The Brutal Dawn of a New World from the Downfall of Athens to the Rise of Alexander the Great
by Michael Scott
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Dancefloor of Ares, 25 Aug. 2010
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This is a good book, its lucid and readable, alternating between personal careers of the politicians and generals and kings, and the inter-state politics and battles that came out of them. Its a dreadfullly engaging narrative- quite literally as we watch Athens giddly swing back and forth and Thebes face appaling vengeance. Friendships falls apart, power corrupts and so tyrants rise- or do they? Michael Scott is good at portraying all the contradictions of the time, and if no one comes up smelling of roses no one is damned as inhuman. Only four stars as I felt Michael Scott doesn't have quite the elegance of say Tom Holland, nor the latter's lightness of humour, but every author deserves to be rated on their own merits, and this is great approachable reading.


How To Be Free
How To Be Free
by Tom Hodgkinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Big ideas....fuzzy at the edges., 31 May 2010
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This review is from: How To Be Free (Paperback)
Firstly I loved this book for its vigour and energy. Mr Hodgkinson makes many valid points about what clogs up your life, what is unnecessary and what detracts us from ourselves and gets in the way of a life fully engaged and lived. The latter he defines as an integrated and organic affair. So far so good- and lots of little cues and ideas about how to practice self sufficency etc.... Hodgekinson states at the beginning of the book, the psychological need for an arcadia: an ideal internal landscape and ideal which we can flee to in times of stress and which act as a guiding light- something to aspire to. His is a firmly anti-Protestant, pro-monachical, idyll and the little disclaimer at the beginning is soon forgotten as Hodgkinson waxes lyrical on how much better things were with good old fashioned kings and bishops in charge. Many of his comments on mediaeval society and culture is at times down-right wrong: it certainly was not all feasting and singing, and lords did not sit around all day holding festivals for all and sundry. Similarly mediaeval city republics as well as the guilds were hotbeds of ambition and exploitation who often underlined their ascendency with firm statutes and force if necessary and not always the joyful and reciprocal communes he imagines- thjese were rather a romantic product of later imaginations. He quotes the motto of the peasant's revolt but doesn't wonder why they might be revolting in the first place.I rather suspect Hodgkinson loves the drama of the label of Anarchist, but his message does carry as rather conservative at times. I think also that he tends not to realise the full gamut of human nature. That said when he sticks to the practicalities of taking control and seeing beyond the next paycheque, he's very impreesive and it is perhaps besides the point to get too pulled into shredding his Arcadia. A provoking and very inspiring book!


Cathedral of the Sea
Cathedral of the Sea
by Ildefonso Falcones
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars La Catedral del Mar, 8 Mar. 2010
This review is from: Cathedral of the Sea (Paperback)
If you're hovering over this book in two minds I'd say go for it! I took a chance on it and finished it in three days flat. I loved it! And for lots of reasons: its evocative, accessible, well paced, and dramatic! I can't really understand many of the criticisms people have levelled against it on here. The characters are 2D- this novel is set in mediaeval times when peoples roles and ideals were intense and starkly drawn more than nuanced, ironic or fashionable. The language is flat- well, Falcones is perhaps not the world's best lyricist but this use of language suits the direct and workmanlike protagonists. The plot sags in the middle- it certainly does not, for each piece fits into the next and this carries. Actually I found this worked very well, as even when it seemed nothing was happening I felt certain that something- who knew what- was building up, and so it proved! The history is obscure and badly worked into the story....again I don't feel this: all of the legalities and politics mentioned are related directly to the plot and I feel give the story depth and realism and status, relating it to such wonderfully named monarchs as Pedro the Cruel! I found it fascinating! And please, why are people saying its a Spanish story? Its most definitely more a Catalan one! I loved the warm and clearly drawn world Ildefonso Falcones creates- its not poetry but its good story telling!


The Seance
The Seance
by John Harwood
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Step up to the table......., 19 Feb. 2010
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This review is from: The Seance (Paperback)
Why have not heard of this writer before, and why so little of this novel? I bought it by chance second hand- it was cheap, had a nice cover, and a scan of the back gave enough clues that this would be a light bit of entertainment.
This is a simply wonderful book, just really good, absorbing storytelling.
The characters, all have strong identities and it is hard, I found, not to believe in them and feel with them. The plot is dazzling, with several shifts and at times a welter of bewildering possibilities that intrigue without overloading.
The language Harwood uses is deft in the extreme- atmospheric and redolent of the Brontes, Austen, or Henry James without ever becoming intrusive or oppressive and never confusing the story. This is a densely intriguing book, that works on your head as well as your emotions.
Quite brilliant!


1421 : The Year China Discovered the World
1421 : The Year China Discovered the World
by Gavin Menzies
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.24

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Stimulating! But rigorous?, 4 Jan. 2010
Have just finished reading this now and thought I'd hop on here to see what other people thought. For myself, firstly, Menzies gets a thumbs up for taking up his ideas, looking into them and promulagating them. He really does raise some interesting questions about authority and eurocentrism. But he is let down by his inconsistent and I felt, rather haphazard approach at times. certainly when the material treats the East-African coast and Indian Ocean Menzies is very convincing and remains so up to about the Cape Verde Islands. I can buy the Antartic section but the Greenland section was so woolly and generic as to be meaningless...things 'could' have been, there 'is no reason not to think' things, things are 'well within possibility' etc... Slack generalisms that simply lack rigour or conviction. In Mexico theres a fascinating comparison between native and Chinese techniques for luxury good production but these are circumstantial. Tantalising rather than firm. I think Menzies does us a service by pointing out the wrecks of Chinese treasure ships in the most unexpected or places, and it is very likely we in Europe do assume too much, but by the conclusion Menzies is really overstating the case. He seems to really believe that the explorers from Europe were copying directly and knowingly from authoritative Chinese documents in all cases and this is simply too simplistic a historiographical statement to make convincingly on the surviving evidence. His default argument seems to be 'China had the wealth and the technology so it must have been them.' Which does not follow. I am probably not going on to read his next one re Chinese origins for the Renaissance as am not convinced so far. My initial argument off the top of my head was had the Chinese directly intervened in Europe they would certainly have been documented as such. With all the desperate attempts to reach India and China made by the late mediaeval and early modern states a direct link would have been met with a flurry of celebration and documentation. There would have been renaissance paintings showing the chineese ambasadors and traders trading or being met in a style that would have brought honour and lustre to the showy and insecure potentates of europe. Anyway, these are my thoughts. Interesting and thought provoking, but by no means definitive.


Hard Candy [DVD]
Hard Candy [DVD]
Dvd ~ Patrick Wilson
Offered by TwoRedSevens
Price: £3.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Something missing...., 9 Dec. 2009
This review is from: Hard Candy [DVD] (DVD)
....and its not the surgically removed bits! This is a relentless and brave film that asks hard questions about a very taboo subject, and makes us thing about abuse, revenge, madness, innocence real and feigned and lost, self harm, the thin walls of normality and images of perfection. Its is an uncomfortable film that distances us from comfortable posturing. So far, so great!
Why the two stars only: well its all just too polished: both characters are essentially unknowable and its hard to feel real and personal sympathy for either of them. We feel we should sympathise with the girl but by the end I could like her no more than the guy- the point is a very nihilist one, both of them have lost much of their humanity. For me the premise and its execution are too clever and slik. But perhaps then that's our job, to translate this film into the real world for ourselves. I couldn't. Sadly, I got bored half way through, after the novelty of torture wore off.......


Roma (Rome 1)
Roma (Rome 1)
by Steven Saylor
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Eleven shots of Rome, 4 Aug. 2009
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This review is from: Roma (Rome 1) (Paperback)
This is a great concept novel, of tremendous scope and its very ambitious. Via a series of character-driven narratives and clever plots, we see Rome sprout from a wilderness to a world-dominating empire. Saylor is a good story-teller and even while, throughout the book, ever more titanic figures from history set the political landscapes he never fails to mention littler, everyday people, and their troubles that act as conduits between us and a past both bizarrely foreign and oddly recognisable. Its fascinating seeing how, generally speaking, history and people repeat themselves although never quite the same way twice. I do feel a need to go on and read Livy now!


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